James Surowiecki has an interesting article in Wired about how technology-driven consumer empowerment has knee-capped the advertising industry's favorite crutch, The Brand.
Americans have become less loyal. Consumer-goods markets used to be very stable. If you had a set of customers today, you could be pretty sure most of them would still be around two years, five years, ten years from now. That's no longer true. A study by retail-industry tracking firm NPD Group found that nearly half of those who described themselves as highly loyal to a brand were no longer loyal a year later. Even seemingly strong names rarely translate into much power at the cash register. Another remarkable study found that just 4 percent of consumers would be willing to stick with a brand if its competitors offered better value for the same price. Consumers are continually looking for a better deal, opening the door for companies to introduce a raft of new products.
My favorite line: "Marketing types either don't see this trend or choose not to talk about it." (Link via Marginal Revolution)